PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE HONOLULU ADVERTISER
A resounding YES!! It seems the men were encouraged to keep up[ a serious air, while the women have been increasingly giddy while performing the sacred Kahiko. Everybody gives the same excuse. Oh your just so excited its such a rush when the audience is screaming and yelling, sometimes with the meanings its hard not to smile, ect., ect.,
Now before you people start calling me a no nothing armchair quarterback, let me just inform you that although I have never been able to go physically to a merrie monarch hula competition, I have been a hula dancer and chanter for over 35 years. I first danced hula on a stage at age 12. I am a traditional hula chanter, and a kumu in my own right although I do not have a known halau. My halau follows the old ways. Those whom I teach I each in private for free without charge and without public performances. I teach a religion not a public spectacle for the enjoyment of the tourists.
I hve been critiquing the MMHF since it was first aired on TV and those of us on Kauai were able to watch it. Over the years I have seen it essentially going down the tubes. It has become a commercial tourist extravaganza with younger and younger papered or "palapala" kumus coming to the forefront. Those of Native Hawaiian ancestry are becoming fewer and fewer amung the ranks of the halaus. You see a huge influx of caucasion, asian and filipino dancers now being the majority in all halaus.
Now you are going to say hey your a racist hula is for everyone, bla bla bla. Yeah, but like everything the Hawaiians, and Polynesians begin, everyone else has to do them one better. Just like outrigger canoing, and surfing. Everybody does it now. Hula is now the same.
With its glut of fake kumus who took a few lessons from some papered kumu now flooding the world with their cheesy versians of what Hawaiian Culture is. OK now there are going to be those of you squaking: Hey your just jealous becasue your not papersed! You never unikie'd! You are half white! AND YOU ARE NOT EVEN HAWAIIAN SO SHUT UP!! blah blah bhlah!!. Ok lemme answer that. Yes, I DID uniki,. long before someone came and cut down all the vegetation so that Kee heiau could be seen. It had been hidden for decades on purpose. Im may be part Native American but like I said, I was orpaned at 12 years old and hanaid. The REAL hanai, not the u come for christmas and thanksgiving kind.Then of course the idea to reopen it for everyone to come and uniki and all the halaus to come, ect. As long as you put down the la'i, and danced with your halau you were considered unikied.
Hey man thats not how ke'e WORKS.
To uniki is a PRIVATE, and INDIVIDUAL thing. Further, not even the GREAT Iulani Luahine OR Auntie Nona Beamer was able to uniki at Ke'e. Are all those little high school kids and their paper kumus telling me they were better then THEY were? That 20 poeple can be louder than the wind and surf I agree. But can each one of them pass the old test?
I used to go once a year, with a freind, or hanai relative. I would make the trip up to Ke'e quietly without fanfare. I would cleanse, do all of the rituals, and we would go before dawn. I would ascend to kee and chant by myself. I went in the winter not in the summer, so the elements would be loud. WInd, high surf. Some years it was nearly impossible to get up there, and some years i thought the wind would knock me down. But, when I was able to physically i would go and do it.
I only brought one witness. They didnt even have to know about hula. Sometimes i even brought a tourist or two. All they had rto do was one thing. Tell me if they could hear my words clearly from the beach at Kee by the old trees. If they said yes, I knew I had yet again passed, and i continued to dance and chant.
I have failed this test a few times. In those years I NEVER DANCED OR CHANTED.But I will say that in the last 35 years I have failed maybe 5 times. Thats pretty good odds. However I have missed the last 2 years, because of my health. SO I am unsure wether i still have the right to dance or chant. BUT this is following the CORRECT way.
A pecve of paper can NEVER make u a kumu. EVER. That idea was started in the modern era. It does have its goodthings about it. A haumana who has studied 10 or 20 years, I beleive DOES have the right to call themselves a kumu. HOWEVER, I beleive that age is an important factor. Young kumus may have new ideas, but they lack the knowlege of experiencing the gods. You dont get to have that knowlege enough in your youth. IN my opinion a Kumu should NEVER be under the ago of 35 oe 40 years old.
If you really take that to its farthest conclusion I actually beleive you should be a kupuna before you begin to teach. Many would say thats ridiculous. You would not have time to teach a haipo. I dissagree. That may be for a commercial halau, but not for a traditional one. The eldest child, or the second eldest if the oldest shows no talent, or your hanai, should have been being trained by you in private all along, and ready to assume leadership. Kumus tratitionally have long life expectations. This is becasue REAL kumus do not ussually engage in alchohol, cigarettes or drugs, although many modern kumus do. Even Iolani Luahine was a famous drinker, although she was a sacred kahiko dancer, NEVER SMILED, and was purely POSESSED when she danced.. But during hula, or teaching this is strictly kapu. SO in the end, much less bad habits amung the kumus then acverage helps to prolong life as well as the rigors of hula.
Now I am not against paper halaus. I just dont beleive they should turn into Kumu mills, where if you spoend x amount of dollars, take x amount of clasases, and techhniclly pass everything, and you umiki in some public ceremony, which was never supposed to be public however, that you get your palapala and now you can teach. BUT what is your experience, on your own? what is YOUR style? who are your kino laus? what gods and godesses will you follow? You may have a church given hula name, but who are you really?
Ok what does this have to dfo with SMILING at the merrie monarch? P:ENTY!!! Modern paper halau Kumus allow students to smile. They are not following a religion. They are PERFORMING. Hula Kahiko is a RELIGION. It is poart of a RELIGIOUS practice SACRED to the gods. You dont smile. You become the gods, and the godesses much like voodoo in haiti, although different as well. There is nothing in this practice to show you are HERE in this mopdern world. You are SUPPOPSED to be gone. transfixed and POSESSED of the God or Godess you are SUPPOSED to be posessed by. Not smiling like you are in some hula show, sweetly and dem,urely, and all coherent and whatever. THAT IS NOT KAHIKO!!
I can remember the arguments about smile or not to smile. The rules in MMHF were changed to allow smiling. Many of us were appalled. If a halau smiles and is NOT attentive top the God or Godess they are too me honoring I COMPLETELY mark them off my list asa a good halau, and the kumu to a paper kumu only.
Now here is ANOTHER pet peeve of mine. The halaus have become to PLAIN!!!! The material, devoid of symbolism, the skin, devoid of symbolism, all traces of the ancient meanings gone. Some halaus do better with the traditional pau then others, some at least make an attempt, and the men especially seem to be allowed more traditional roles then the womne. Which is a completel fallacy because women had their own heiaus, and their own sacred ceremonies which were completely kapu to men, including dances and mele and oli.
The fact is that the polynesian dance has ALWAYS been one of symbols. Tatoos, markings on the clothing, ect. In some years of the MMHF this has been popular, but as I said, the MMHF has become a populist tourist attraction. Tourists want to see pretty thin girls in flowers, and pretty church like dresses smiling sweetly and being flirty, while they want to see muscled warriors greased up and looking like warriors shouting and whooping. This is what Kahiko, the most sacred religious observance of the people has turned into.
Now dont get me wrong. We are looking at the Merrie Monarch period here. We are looking at the Kalakaua period with its western influence. But the kings idea was to bring back traditional observances. If you will notice at his coronation, dancers did NOT smile, they were NOT young, and there WAS symbolism. All too often, the merrie monarch has become a dance of high school kids, with the older members delegated to the back row, instead of up front where they belonged.
There is a famous woodcut from the 18 century showing a halau block of maybe 30 women, the hair all short and limed in front, tattoed and topless performing. TO those who dfo NOT know, these women were NOT YOUNG. Hair was cut after a certain age, and the fashion was to lime it around the edges. These women w90uld have all been older, not young girls. And they were tattoed even on thier faces.
ANOTHER pet peeve of mine is short western hair for the men. Traditional dancers had LONG HAIR, not short cropped Mormon missionarry hair. NOR did they wear womens style lei poo. I am sick of all the men looking so squeeky clean Mormon missionarry style. I would prefer to see some real warriors out tthere. Also I would like to see more lua movements in Kahuiko for the men, as that was what the male kahiko was composed of. Enough with the flowery stuff. I will also say I am impressed with the womens lua movements however they are not performing their own traditional religious movements. Of course they would probably shock the audience so I suppose they cant be allowed to move out of their missionarry looking poerformances. However the men seem allowed to do their movements to no shock of the audience. I teach my women traditional ma'i. The movements are not pretty and graceful. They are what they are, honoring the female godesses, of which there are aqt least 20 thousand. Thats another thing. Honour some other gods and godesses besides the main ones. There are thousands. FInd some of them. Much has been lost, but much can be regained.
Lets return Merrie Monarch to what it is supposed to be, shall we? Or not. Well thats my rant. You can pick it apart, and pull it to shreds, and call it jealousy, sour grapes, or just chalk me up to a crazy half white lady who is old and embittered and a gfftaud and has no idea what I am talking about. But those of you who know I know exactly what im talking about will probably be in complete agreement. And it sure feels good to get that all out!!
Now its time to watch Auana night. Of which I have no complaints, since its a free for all. In my opinion save the smiling for Auana night, and get back in touch with the gods on Kahiko nite, thats all. And QUIT SMILING.
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